CHICAGO -- It seemed only a matter of time before it caught up to the Edmonton Oilers.
A team can only sleepwalk their way through so many opening periods before being made to pay for it.
Last night the Oilers once again failed to show up for the first period and were soundly defeated 3-0 by the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.
Actually, they didn't do much in the second period, either.
"Our undoing again was the first period, we were just not ready to play," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.
"We've gotten away with it in at least two of four games and we knew it was not going to be long before it was going to bite us in the rear end and it took a big chunk out of us tonight."
Dwayne Roloson, making his first regular-season start, didn't get anything in the way of help, something that's becoming an all too familiar theme for the veteran goaltender.
It would be good for Roloson if the team scored a goal for him.
It's the second consecutive game the Oilers failed to score in front of Roloson, having been blanked in his last preseason contest.
"There is not much I can do about that," Roloson said. "I just focus on what I have to do to play. I just want to focus on doing the simple things to try to give our guys a chance to win."
Patrick Sharp opened the scoring early in the opening period, drifting undetected into the slot on the power play and depositing a Jonathan Toews pass in the Oilers net.
Later in the period, Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook made it 2-0, jumping into a short-handed rush unmolested and firing a Dave Bolland feed past Roloson.
"It's been a while, so getting the rush reads is the toughest thing," Roloson said. "Simple little rush reads are tough sometimes when you haven't seen a rush in a while. They're a great rush team and unfortunately my reads were a little bit slow."
In the second, Aaron Johnson increased Chicago's lead as he was left all alone in front and fired a shot through Roloson.
The Blackhawks would have been up by more heading into the second intermission had it not been for a great recovery save by Roloson, who dove back across the net after the puck took a bad bounce off the end boards, denying defenceman Brian Campbell a goal.
"I thought Roli played great," MacTavish said. "I thought Roli was our best player, which is unfortunate he had to be on a night like this when he hasn't played in a while and the team didn't play very well in front of him."
The only decent chance the Oilers had came off the stick of Shawn Horcoff who redirected a centring pass off the crossbar.
It was the only time Edmonton troubled Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who recorded his first shutout of the season and 39th of his career.
The loss was the Oilers first of the season after a 4-0 start.
The Oilers will get a chance to redeem themselves tonight when they continue their three-game road trip in Denver with a game against the Colorado Avalanche. They'll round out the trip Saturday in Vancouver.
"We didn't have enough enthusiasm, we didn't have enough energy to start the game," said Oilers captain Ethan Moreau.
"This should be a wakeup call for us. We're getting results even though we didn't have good starts. But collectively we have to have a lot more energy, guys have to be willing to sacrifice and play the game the way it's supposed to be played right off the start."
ICE CHIPS: Defenceman Steve Staios left the team for personal reasons yesterday and was replaced in the lineup by Ladislav Smid ... Sheldon Souray and Sam Gagner, both of whom missed Saturday's game against the Flames, were both back in the lineup last night.